SaraLee’s website tells us: ‘SaraLee is the queen of rhythm ‘n’ blues and rockabilly lovers’ hearts! Her soulful voice and flirty attitude has brightened many stages from Finland to Germany and she is yearning for more.’
They play rhythm ‘n’ blues spiced up with swing, jazz and rockabilly. They love to mix different types of roots music and make it sound unique.
Rhythm and blues/ Jazz is the style I like. She made me cursious. Who is SaraLee, and what makes her tick?
SaraLee, tell us where do you come from?
Right now I’m hailing from Helsinki, Finland. My guitarist Markus Tiiro and drummer Kimmo Salminen come from capital area whereas double basist Jari Lehtomäki comes from Leppävirta, inner Finland.
How it all began
I have been a singer as long as I can remember. I started playing alto saxophone in 7th grade and later I switched to tenor saxophone. My first performance at a blues festival was when I was 15 and active gigging in bars, festivals and restaurants I began when I was 18.
I’ve always loved roots, blues and rockabilly music. There was never a doubt about it. At home, we played vinyl records and I pretty much grew up listening to Brian Setzer, Muddy Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruth Brown and so forth. My absolute favorite female singers are Ella Fitzgerald, Ruth Brown, Etta James, Marie Knight, Aretha Franklin, Barbara Pittman… The list could go forever! From saxophonists I love to listen to King Curtis, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Big Jay McNeely and Stanley Turrentine as an example.
I come from very musical family, so I’ve always been surrounded by different styles of music. I am a third generation of musicians: my grandfather played accordion in a Finnish tango band, my father is a blues singer, harp player and double bassist and now I’m rhythm ‘n’ blues singer, saxophonist, songwriter and soon also a singing teacher. I grew up in a small town, so we didn’t have much else to do than play and listen to music. In addition I went to music high school where I got to get influences from many fellow musicians and teachers.
Queen of Your Heart
Queen of Your Heart is the name of our debut album, it includes only our own songs, we are really proud of that. It is a combination of explosive rhythm ‘n’ blues, sizzling swing and voodoo rhythms. Songs to the record have collected influence from all over the Europe! “Bahama Mama” was “born” in Düsseldorf, Germany, whereas “Gypsy in Me” has a strong Spanish vibe. On the other hand, despite its name, New York City Bank was written in Helsinki.
I got quite vivid imagination. Sometimes I just see a situation or end up in some place that just has to be captured in a song. So basically I can be inspired by some situation or feeling or I just create a neat melody and go from there.
I usually come up with lyrics and melodies and the mood of the song. Then I meet up with guitarist Markus Tiiro. Together we compose the chord changes and develop ideas further. Final arrangement we do as a band.
Do’s and don’ts
My basic rule is sound excellent, know your songs and lyrics by heart, look stunning and have fun.
I make most of my own stage clothes, so I (usually) get what I want! When I don’t have the time or skill to make what I want to wear, I go to vintage shop / dressmaker VintagEija’s. She makes really beautiful clothes and I trust her completely. For me, sounding good on stage is really important. That’s why I carry with me my own microphone (Shure 5575LE) and I know how to work with sound system. Of course once sounds are checked and all’s good to go, it’s all about having fun and making audience enjoy their evening.
Yes I Do. I dig roots music in general, so I listen to jazz, swing, gypsy swing, rockabilly, neobilly, surf…
Is there an artist you would like to work with in future?
Yes, there are many! Of course it would be amazing to work with fellow Rhythm Bomb Records Artists and if possible, I’d like to meet Big Jay McNeely one more time.
Where would you like to play next?
We love to play anywhere! I’ve had amazing opportunities to play in various places and I’m eager to see what future holds for us.
Tell us a fun story about your band or gig.
Ha, it’s so hard to pick one! Ok, here’s one. I was booked for a gig in the countryside bar near my hometown. We were doing a sound check and this lady came to me and accused me of playing saxophone as playback. She said that my fingers didn’t touch saxophone correctly. That was unexpected and pretty funny. When gig started I joked that somebody should but that CD ready since next song includes a saxophone solo…!
What are your future plans?
Record more albums, play more gigs, write more songs and travel more. Being travelling musician as I am now!
Finish this sentence: we will never ever…. Say out loud what I will never do since life tends to be full of surprises!
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